REVIEW: “You Will Believe: The Making of a Saga” DVD

Superman: The Ultimate Collector’s Edition
Disc 13: You Will Believe: The Making of a Saga

A 14-disc set for a five-movie series is bound to have some space-filler. While I hate to call You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of Superman space-filler, the 90-minute, 2006 documentary on the making of the four Christopher Reeve Superman films and (very briefly) Supergirl, often feels like just that.

The documentary is at its best when covering controversy. And when it comes to the Superman films, controversy always seems to involve Richard Donner facing off against Alexander & Ilya Salkind. Without really taking sides, the documentary follows up the comments of one side (Donner, for instance) with contrasting comments from the other side (Ilya Salkind).

Though the documentary’s makers attempted to include him, noticeably absent is Richard Lester, the often maligned replacement director on Superman II. I’m sure Lester has his reasons for not choosing to tell his side, but I find his decision to remain silent regrettable. As it is, we get the tale as told by Donner, who makes a convincing argument, and a somewhat weaker, defensive take by Salkind.

Far too often, though, You Will Believe doesn’t offer much in the way of entertainment. Predictably, Superman III, Supergirl, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace are glossed over. All-in-all, a documentary that could have been so much is disappointingly average and, ultimately, unfulfilling.

Several other separate features are also included on the You Will Believe disc. The Mythology of Superman puts the Man of Steel in the context of legendary heroic myths. The 20-minute featurette is interesting mostly for on-screen appearances of many DC notables, such as Paul Levitz (President and Publisher) and Roger Stern (Writer). I’d never seen most of these people before, so it was interesting to put faces with familiar but behind-the-scenes names.

The Heart of a Hero: A Tribute to Christopher Reeve is, unfortunately, another disjointed documentary that seems to lack any kind of vision and feels randomly assembled. Rather than this 18-minute featurette, I would have preferred a full-on biographical piece of at least an hour in length. Reeve deserves at least that much on a 14-disc set.

Instead, we get Superpup.

As first seen earlier this year in the Look Up In The Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman documentary, The Adventures of Superpup was a 1958 TV pilot. It was a dumbed-down version of The Adventures of Superman with little people playing the parts dressed as various dog breeds. Superpup is disguised as Bark Bent, a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Bugle.

The pilot is presented in its entirety on this disc. It features many of the same sets and props as the Superman series. I was oddly reminded of a Conan O’Brien episode I flipped by a couple of years ago where the entire episode had been re-done in claymation.

I managed to watch the whole Superpup episode, which clocked in at about twenty minutes. It was a surreal experience, and not in a good way. To be honest, I would not have watched all of it under normal circumstances, but I don’t like to review DVDs without taking in all of the content.

I will give Warner credit for exhaustively searching their vaults for unreleased Superman material. Superpup is an odd curiosity piece. No background is presented on this disc, though Look Up In The Sky covers it adequately enough (Disc 12).

There is payoff for making it through this disc. Two out of the three classic Warner Bros. cartoons that close out the disc are fantastic. Up first is Super-Rabbit (1943) starring Bugs Bunny. While this is arguably a similar concept to Superpup, Bugs is a classic and avoids the pitfall of equating entertainment for children with stupidity.

Snafuperman (1944) is a dated piece that was rather slow. In 1956’s Stupor Duck, Daffy Duck takes a turn as yet another Superman variation. Honestly, the Bugs and Daffy cartoons are the highlights of this disc and earn it an extra point.

Features: 7 (out of 10)
Video Quality: 8
Audio Quality: 8
Bonus Features: N/A (the entire disc was a bonus feature)
Overall Experience: 7

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